South Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has voiced her concern over the future of the Galloway Viking Hoard after grilling National Museums Scotland director Dr Gordon Rintoul in last week’s culture committee.
Ms McAlpine, who convenes the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, took the opportunity to press Dr Rintoul on the future of the hoard during Thursday’s evidence session on Scottish collections.
The MSP, who has called for local campaigners to be included in talks on the future of the hoard, asked the museums director why the collection cannot be permanently displayed in Dumfries and Galloway.
Dr Rintoul responded that the material is of international importance and “will require considerable expertise and resources to conserve it”. He added that “Our plan is not to acquire it and keep it all in Edinburgh; that is not the case.” He suggested that only once NMS have possession of the hoard can they undertake an assessment of “what can be displayed where, when and for how long”.
Ms McAlpine raised the example of Shambellie House in New Abbey, which was closed by NMS with a promise that they would continue to provide loans to the region. Dr Rintoul claimed NMS “have a pretty strong track record of working with the team at Dumfries and Galloway museum service.
Ms McAlpine concluded by asking if Dr Rintoul would accept an invitation from the Cabinet Secretary to a summit on the future of the hoard. He responded that NMS are in a dialogue with the Cabinet Secretary and Dumfries and Galloway museum service regarding a meeting.
Commenting after the committee session, Ms McAlpine said:
“The hoard was clearly a hugely significant find and its national – and international - importance cannot be overstated.
“But it’s vital that Scotland’s communities have meaningful, local access to their own cultural heritage.
“I took the opportunity to ask some difficult questions of Dr Rintoul because I want him to understand why my constituents are so concerned about the future of the hoard.
“Ultimately, the Queens and Lord Treasurer Remembrancer decided to make National Museums Scotland custodian of the Galloway Viking Hoard.
“This was an independent decision that came as a disappointment for many of my constituents. I am, however, pleased the council is looking to develop a positive working relationship to get the best deal possible from National Museums Scotland and it is in this spirit I hope roundtable talks will begin.
“The obvious strength of feeling in Dumfries and Galloway must not be ignored, not least because of the many regional opportunities proper local access to this unique collection could entail.
“I hope that - if the input of the local community can be guaranteed – the parties involved can come up with an arrangement that means a positive outcome for Dumfries and Galloway.”